What type of miter saw stand do you need?
A miter saw is a valuable piece of equipment that performs a critical function. But like many tools, it needs some help to achieve its full potential. In the case of the miter saw, this involves getting the saw up to a height where you can use it efficiently.
There are many ways to do this in a woodshop setting, but for many woodworkers a portable option is critical. The only thing that remains is to decide what type of stand you need.
Having a miter saw stand can make all the difference when it comes to doing quality work on the job. (Or in the garage for that matter). Having your saw set at the correct height and having the length of the pieces you are cutting well supported and in line with the sawbed is of critical importance.
Sure you can do this by setting a saw on the floor and using blocks of wood, but that really isn’t a good choice. It takes extra time, and no matter how good a shape you are in, a lot of extra effort.
Choosing a Style
There are 3 basic styles of the universal miter saw stand:
Sawhorse – The sawhorse stand, amazingly enough, follows the basic design of a sawhorse. A cross piece where the saw mounts and four legs that raise it to work height. Most of these stands come with mounting brackets that attach to the saw and clamp to the stand These clamps hold the saw firmly in place.
Table – The table style of stand offers a flat surface that the miter saw rests on. Most often the saw will be clamped to this surface as well. This type of portable stand is less common, primarily because of weight considerations.
Wheeled – The wheeled stand is not really a basic style in and of itself. Both of the basic stand types come in wheeled options, and there is a hybrid that combines the features of both, with a wide base and a single crosspiece that the saw mounts to with clamps.
Most of the time, the clamps will remain attached to the saw at all times, which makes the saw difficult to use without the stand.
Virtually all portable stands have extension arms that offer support to longer pieces of wood. Some even have multiple points of support, with varying levels of adjustability and complexity.
Beyond the Basics
It might be easiest to think of there being 3 choices – A sawhorse style stand with legs. A sawhorse stand with added wheels. And a stand that has a wide tubular frame.
There are trade-offs to be made in choosing either style. The most compact when collapsed is the sawhorse style. In general, they are lighter than the more robust versions. for all practical purposes, the stand and the saw will have to be transported separately. Though this might seem like an issue, in most cases it is not. Setting up the stand is easier without the saw attached, and since the clamps remain attached at all times, clamping the miter saw to the table only takes a moment.
Adding wheels to the sawhorse stand makes it easier for some to move the stand to the job site, especially if the stand is one of the heavier models. The theory is probably that the saw can be attached to the stand and both can be hauled into the site. The truth is, though, that the addition of the saw is likely to make the combination very tippy, and is sure to make deploying the combo very difficult.
If moving the saw and the stand around together is the first choice, then the wider tubular stand is going to be the preferred option. The wider base makes the two together very stable, the combination of wheels and handles also makes it easy to wheel from place to place. In addition, most of these stands have some sort of mechanism that aids in raising the stand. There are some excellent versions of this stand available. Be sure that you are set up for using this stand though. You need to be easily wheel the stand up a ramp or have the ability to drag it into a truck bed. Either that or be sure to have help when you need to load and unload it.
Choosing Your Miter Saw Stand
Miter saw stands are another case where the quality dictates the cost.
Unfortunately, the cheapest of the stands are made of steel tubing. The amount of metal in the stand, the clamps, and the extensions and supports ads up. While this might be a viable option when it comes to sawhorse stands, it can really add up in the wider stands.
While that might not seem like a consideration since a wheeled stand looks so easy to wheel around. And it is, but the wheeling around isn’t the only thing to consider when thinking about transport, there’s also loading to consider.
Think about how you are going to store the saw and stand. While most of the sawhorse style miter saw stands will tuck out of the way nicely, not all of the roller stands will. Choose a model which collapses into a compact unit that can be slid away under a shelf or placed against the wall. When thinking of a collapsible stand also look at how well designed the mechanism is for raising and lowering the saw.
If you choose to purchase a simpler model, pay attention to how the legs are deployed. Are they easy to extend and do they lock into place firmly and reliably? Also, consider portability. Once the stand is collapsed is there a handle for carrying, or are you expected to just wrap your arms around the unit and lug it around?
If you are planning on getting a lot of use out of a portable miter saw stand, place an emphasis on weight and quality. Choosing a stand made from aluminum tubing, and pay special attention to ease of deployment.
You are likely to have to live with your choice for a long time.